Confession is good for the soul

For some reason today, I’ve been pondering the benefits of confession. The other day I posted a blog entry about a shattering revelation I learned. Prior to writing the post I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t sleep. Once I posted it I felt relieved and better. It was a cathartic experience. It also made me realize why they say confession is good for the soul.

Dark Goddess Devil Tlazolteotl

 

I was raised Roman Catholic so after a certain point confession was expected to be part of the ritual of faith. I hated it! Being forced to attend confession every month just meant I made things up. As a child (and at the time I was between the ages of 10-14) the worst things I did were smart mouth my mother, curse and other assorted venial sins. Most of the times my friends and I would exchange notes before confession so we could beef up our offenses. This entire process defeated the point of confession. We felt no relief or healing from it. It stressed us out because we felt judged and harried to find sins to confess.

Even with friends and family, I have resisted discussing matters that most bothered my spirit. Whether they were things I’ve done or things done to me, I feared that others would negatively judged me. Fear and shame held me prisoner for a long time and allowed a lot of things to fester and become toxic. It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve been able to appreciate the benefits of confession (and forgiveness too for that matter).

Part of my inner labyrinth journey through the Dark Goddess majors has helped in this process. It has allowed me to face some of my fears and acknowledge some of my strengths. This journey has dredged up some issues I’ve tried hard to avoid but which clearly needed to be addressed. Burying them failed. Nothing went away, it just leached into my soul and poisoned me. As traumatic as this latest revelation has proven to be, at least it had the benefit of helping me understand how sharing or confessing can be healing. It allows us to lance the boil; cauterize the wound so that healing can begin.

The parts of my journey where I met Tlazolteotl and Kali proved especially beneficial to this process. Tlazolteotl is the Aztec goddess of corruption and filth as well as forgiveness and purification. The image on the card sums up her energy quite nicely – you must purge before you can purify. That’s what this sharing, confessional moment has allowed me to do. I’ve purged the ugliness and horror of what I learned and as a result I was able to begin healing. Kali, the Dark Goddess Tower, helped me learn that destroying external elements in my life was freeing not terrifying. I resist change with all my might but in this case Kali helped me embrace the fact that the destruction of the image I held of this relative would ultimately prove freeing. I allowed me to release a burden I hadn’t even realized I carried and continue on my journey with a lighter, more healthy spirit.

Dark Goddess Tower Kali

 

If you have any secrets or dark memories that are festering in your life and poisoning your soul find someone to tell. Don’t keep things hidden in the darkness. Bare your soul, dig at those repressed or ignored memories and expose them to the light of day so they can be detoxified. Ironically enough it turns out the Catholics are right – confession is good for the soul. The beauty of it is that you don’t need a priest to hear it and convey Yahweh’s forgiveness in order to benefit.

Inanna Witch of Earth

Blue Rose Tarot Hanged Man

Blue Rose Hanged Man

 

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: But the Hanged Man teaches us that this is precisely what is necessary in order to continue upon the last half of the Great Journey, where the stages become so delicate and subtle that it takes an embracing of all possibilities simply to perceive and attempt to navigate through them.

But to step out of the paradigm that today’s world wraps around us…well, it is easier said than done. A world in which the spiritual and magical hums softly, so softly just below the surface of our consciousness. And it is indeed a difficult song to hear through the stifling atmosphere of our own personal paradigms.

We humans do hate to relinquish all our “pet” beliefs, prejudices and opinions.  When we are in the middle of a paradigm, it is hard to perceive or imagine any other.  But that is precisely what must happen.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: The man in black seems to be saying “follow me and I’ll lead to you to a place you never knew existed”. All you have to do is change how you look at your world. It suggests that there is another world that exists beneath or next to our own, a world we are not usually able to see.

I find it interesting that the adult is showing the children the path to new perceptions. It has been my experience that children usually lead us to new perspectives and to question our long held beliefs. I also like the suggestion that there are layers to our reality, realities within realities, like those Russian dolls which have successively smaller dolls within the larger one. This Hanged Man is like a Monty Python skit which pokes fun at commonly held beliefs and causes us to stop and reconsider our perspective. It is that wonderful book that uses fiction as a way to shine light on something and forces us to look at it anew.

I also think the children in the card symbolize how our perspectives and attitudes change as we mature. As children we believed the Moon followed us home and watched over us but as adults we realize that is an illusion. However how many of us still cling to that belief in our heart. The Hanged Man shows us that we sometimes need to expand our boundaries and explore new perspectives. We may need to sacrifice the comfort of long-held beliefs and not allow complacency or laziness to keep us in a rut.

Soul sickness by association

What do you do when you learn something about a family member that is so horrific and shocking that it shatters you? How do you pick up the pieces and move forward again? How can you repair the collateral damage it creates in your life? Can you ever again be in the presence of that family member? Do you share this information with other loved ones? I don’t know the answers to this litany of questions but I am about to start exploring my way through this thorny, nasty thicket.

The other day while talking with a childhood friend, she revealed something quite disturbing about a relative. I had often suspected that there was some shady and extremely negative in this relative’s behavior. In fact my hubby and I had even shared our suspicions with each other on several occasions. I genuinely thought I knew this relative and that nothing, no matter how vile, could surprise me. Well I have been proven wrong. My friend shared a past incident about this relative which completely shattered me. It left me feeling ragged, raw and reduced to tears. I still feel physically ill.  It revealed a darkness and depravity of which I had not believed this person capable. What makes me even sadder is that my friend holds herself responsible for what occurred and I can tell it’s destroying her up inside.

Without getting into details, because in this instance they don’t really matter, I feel the need to focus on the soul sickness that results from these types of incidents and how I plan to begin the healing process. What surprises me the most about this situation is that I understand how my friend feels. When she shared the incident with me I felt shame and blame – guilt by association. Have you ever experienced something like that?  You learn something about a relative, something which you could not have prevented even if you knew at the time, but feel as though you carry some of the blame? I feel as though I should have done something to protect this friend. I had an idea of the damage this relative was capable of inflicting on others, I knew my friend was in a vulnerable state at that point. Yet I did nothing to try to stop them from hanging out together. In my mind I realize that even if I had tried to prevent it, the odds are it would not have worked. My heart and my soul are finding this harder to accept.

Dark Goddess Tarot Moon/Arianrhod Dark Goddess Tarot 4 of Earth/Sphinx

So as an effort to start my healing process, and maybe help my friend with hers, I asked the Arianrhod (The Moon) from the Dark Goddess Tarot for guidance. I needed to know how to deal with having my illusions (or delusions) about this family member destroyed. Arianrhod sent me The Sphinx (4 of Earth). Her message to me was that it was time to face the harsh truth of this matter because trying to run from it does no one, especially me, any good. So I asked The Sphinx for some advice on facing this harsh truth. She offered me Temperance reversed and the Queen of Wands.

Hudes Temperance 34

The message these cards had for me struck my spirit immediately. Temperance reversed is telling me not to lose sight of the fact that my inner spirit is pure and carries no taint of blame. However, it also reminds me that a purification and cleansing ritual might help me and my friend feel better. I need to look deep within myself and embrace the reflection that shines back. She has nothing to do with this family member’s actions and behaviors. She couldn’t have stopped any of it but maybe she can help my friend find some healing too. The Queen of Wands reminds me of my warrior spirit. She is fierce in defense of those she loves and merciless to those who harm her loved ones. In this instance the harmer happens to be someone that is a family member and was once loved. That betrayal makes it so much worse but she is strong. She has survived harsh and painful experiences before and she can do it now. The pain will recede and she will emerge from the fire feeling stronger and tempered. That also ties in with Temperance’s energy and reminds me that what doesn’t kill us does make us stronger. I know it’s a cliché but that doesn’t make it any less accurate – at least for me. If I let this beat me than that family member has won. The damage caused all those years ago will finally prove fatal. I refuse, defiantly and assertively, to let that happen.

I’m sharing this in the hopes that anyone else out there who has gone through a similar shattering revelation or experience can find some support and comfort. You’re not alone. Don’t take the shame, blame and stain of the offender into your own soul. We are not our brother’s, sister’s, father’s, mother’s or anyone else’s keeper. Their actions and behaviors do not reflect upon us. Don’t let it make you soul sick.

I’ve learned much to my dismay that these types of people are rather sociopathic and very manipulative. They find our weaknesses and exploit them. There is no shame in being vulnerable, we’ve all been vulnerable at some point in our lives, especially as children. Don’t let it define you or damage you for the rest of your days. Fight it, explore that darkness and let yourself come out healed and whole on the other side. Remember that their darkness is not yours to carry and believe that you are worthy of love, forgiveness and wholeness.

When abuse transforms into self-abuse

Dance of Life 3 of Health Dance of Life 8 of Relationships

Yesterday my daily cards pulled from the Dance of life Tarot were the 3 of Health Rx and 8 of Relationships. Reading the companion book I was struck by the author’s notes about healthy sexuality (the 3 of Health) and abusive behavior (8 of Relationships). It made me stop and seriously examine my attitudes towards both these areas of my life.

As a child I was subjected to various forms of sexual and physical abuse – sometimes by strangers and sometimes by family members. Some of the sexual abuse took the form of flirtatiousness and sexual interest from adult men when I was a teen – in some cases friends of my parents. At first I found this attention flattering but it quickly became overwhelming. Whether it was strangers on the street commenting on my anatomy, male classmates snapping my bra strap, or older men making inappropriate suggestions, I quickly became unnerved and began to think something was wrong with me. I believed there was something wrong with me that drew this kind of attention to me. I was young and did not know how to handle this attention so I focused on what I thought I could control – me.

This attitude was further impacted by the abusive dynamic in my household. My approach to dealing with it was to internalize. I didn’t realize that until recently. In fact I’m only starting to understand how insidious and demoralizing its influence is. I thought I had emerged with minimal scars. Now I know that I internalized them and continued the abuse on myself. By ignoring my health and well-being I continued reinforcing the message that I deserved to be mistreated. Realizing this shocked me. It was an unexpected and life-altering revelation. My continue resistance to making healthy changes to my life has taken on a whole new meaning. Instead of healing from the abuses I experienced I continued to perpetrate them on myself.

These revelations have helped make me aware of patterns of behavior I’ve ignored until now. My next step will be to take steps to change these patterns. If I don’t want to continue this self-destructive behavior, then I need to make some dramatic changes. It’s time to truly learn to love myself and embrace who I am rather than paying lip service to those attitudes. Not easy, but something I believe I can accomplish.

Transformational Tarot – Reflection

Transformational Reflection

 

Transformational Tarot
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games ISBN:1572815396

The Book says: Reflection, meditation, a time for deep contemplation. Feeling the need to sacrifice oneself for a worthy cause, or for others. Spiritual awareness obtained by letting go of outdated patterns and beliefs. The ability to perceive things from opposing viewpoints. In it’s reversed this card can warn of a tendency towards co-dependency, self-denial, playing the victim or passive/aggressive power games for persona gain.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: I found this card intriguing. The message I immediately got from it is changing your perspective – one religion’s martyr is another’s demon. Reflection forces us to pause and thing about the polarity and divisiveness we live with daily. It also asks us to stop for a moment and think before we act. It calls on us to look at things from someone else’s perspective, to transform our view of the current situation. As we see when learning history, perspective alters whether an even is “good” or “bad”. Columbus’ “discovery” of America was good to Columbus but bad for the native population. Politicians who reinforce and support our beliefs are seen as good while those espousing different viewpoints can be seen as bad. But the reality is that both may have good and bad points.

Reflection is about those shades of gray with which I personally have so many problems. I hate having to make exceptions and go beyond very simplistic views of “right” and “wrong”. Reflection shows that life is never that simple. Good and evil, right and wrong, sinner and saint are relative terms and can vary according to where you stand and what you believe. So Reflections reminds us all that sometimes we need to turn our beliefs on upside down and see if they’re still useful and healthy. And it’s also a reminder not to rush forward but to stop a minute and reflect on our beliefs, our actions and our lives.

Resentment – that fetid, festering fungus

Have you ever felt such resentment that it almost overwhelmed you?  Had it well up in your throat until it feels swelled like a bullfrog’s? Have you ever felt unable to say no to a situation as then gotten angry with yourself and the person who requested favor?   If you’re like me, then I’m guessing there have been moments you’ve felt this way. Times when you’ve wanted to lash out because you feel taken advantage of or unappreciated. Despite the temporary satisfaction one might feel from lashing out, it tends to make things worse. This made me wonder what would be a better strategy for dealing with resentment?  Here are a few of my theories.

First of all don’t nurse the damned thing. The worst thing I’ve ever dWildwood Sunone is hold onto resentment, fed it and nurtured it until it grew into something uncontrollable like the plant Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. It made the situation worse and blew everything out of proportion. Instead of feeding it in the darkness of our hearts and nurturing it like some malignant mushroom, I should have talked about it with someone – preferably the person I felt resentful towards. In my experience, the key to stopping or healing resentment is bringing it up into the sunlight. Sunlight purifies and removes the toxins. Perhaps sharing how I felt (without trying to shame or blame the other person) might have alleviated this feeling and avoided a lot of problems down the road.

A habit I am still working on breaking is using the resentment generated by this situation to feed other festering resentments I haven’t addressed. The end result is that instead of any possibility for a rational conversation about the issue, I drag up every single time I’ve felt resentful and dump it on that person (usually the hubby). Not the most effective method of conflict resolution or resentment reduction I must say.

Tarot of the Crone 5 of Swords

Another tendency I have that often proves more harmful than beneficial is bitching to friends and family about it. With the best intentions, friends and family tend to unquestionably support your grievance. Often in an effort to be supportive and claim solidarity they will reinforce your resentment. What was already an issue now begins to take on epic proportions and goes from one problem to an entire tapestry of them. Once again, feeding the beast simply makes thing worse. We hope venting will help relieve us of the anger and resentment. However, unless we’re clear about what our goal is and why we’re engaging in this process, we unintentionally strengthen its power over us.

BoS So Below King of Swords

One possible technique that has often helped me when I’m making a professional presentation and might be helpful here too is to make a bullet-point list of my grievances. Take some time to think about things in a calm, clear-headed manner before discussing it with the “offender”. I think creative a calming environment for yourself – maybe a cup of tea and some soothing music, can make this process less anxiety producing. The goal is to stay calm and focused on the specifics of the situation, not let your emotions overwhelm you. We have every right to feel angry and hurt, but sometimes expressing them when we’re trying to resolve a conflict is counter-productive.

Transformational SageI’m sure you find my ramblings fascinating and insightful (how could you not? ;D) However I thought maybe a touch of advice from the Tarot might be in order too. So I asked Arnell Ando’s brilliant Transformational Tarot “What can help us deal with resentment?” I drew The Sage/Hierophant – wonderful! It’s telling us to see wise counsel, seek advice from those who have the knowledge to provide genuine help rather than well-meaning support that merely reinforces the problem. The Sage may represent asking elders, a counselor/therapist for advice. It may be suggesting we seek the wisdom available from the plethora of authors who have written on this subject. It may even point out the support one can find in one’s spiritual tradition. The reality is the solution will be different for each of us just as what triggers resentment is different for each of us.

I hope the next time you feel overwhelmed by resentment towards a loved one you’ll find some useful guidance or insight here.

Fearing the “Others”

Dance of Life 6 of Relationships

 

The other day I drew the 6 of Relationships from the Dance of Life Tarot. The key phrase on the card is Mirror of Myself. In the companion book the author writes about expecting the reflection in mirror to match ours and for our reflection to look out on a face similar to ours. It’s when we realize that there are “Others” who do not share our reflection that we become fearful and threatened.

This seemed especially appropriate to me right now in light of the conversations and debates that have sprung up in the wake of the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover. It made me think about the reactions of the residents in that Texas town who called the police to stop a teenage pool party because some of the attendees were “other”. It reminded me of Trayvon Martin who was followed and ultimately killed because he was “other”, unfamiliar, unknown or Brandon Teena who was killed for being a transgendered person

Why are we so frightened by people or things that are different? I can speak for anyone else but can only work from my own experiences. I tend to initially respond to changes or anything different in my life with hostility. I do not like change, it makes me twitchy. I do not consider myself nor have I ever been accused of being racist or bigoted or prejudiced, although I certainly have prejudices. I try to respond to people as individuals and take them at face value; the way they present themselves to me. However I’m like most people and do have my pet peeves that can trigger prejudiced responses (don’t get me started on hipsters or transplants!).

I think the biggest difference in my reactions to people that trigger my prejudice button is that they make me feel endangered or threatened. I’m not worried about groups of black teens or “scary” looking people on the subway. It’s not that I don’t realize there is a potential danger there it’s that in my experience they don’t threaten me. Hipsters and transplants do because they have and continue to change my hometown, my city. They have transformed it into an unrecognizable playland for the wealthy and tourists. The shredded remains of my childhood, my memories are buried beneath an avalanche of new high rise apartment buildings and trendy eateries. I lived here in the bad times and in the worst times. For these people to whitewash all that and try to tell me what it means to be a New Yorker is insulting and triggers my prejudice buttons (accompanied by colorful and vituperative rants).

To be fair, I don’t know these people individually and the people I am friendly with who moved to NYC years ago don’t trigger any negative response. Perhaps if I got to know some of these newer transplants I’d be less hostile to them too. I believe that is the key to reducing racism, prejudice and hatred. We’re threatened by what is unfamiliar to us. If we become familiar with what threatens us we may find that they aren’t any different than we are. I grew up in a neighborhood that was very ethnically diverse. The common denominator between us was that we were all working class or poor. If we felt threatened by anything is was folks from outside our neighborhood “invading” for any reason. When I went to high school and started meeting students from other parts of the city it helped expand my horizons and learn more about the world outside my neighborhood. I think more diversity will help us learn not to fear the “other”.

This situation is further complicated by media coverage that tries to convince us that the “others’ out there want to take things away from us. Gays want to destroy traditional marriage. Blacks want to destroy white communities. Women want to invade bastions of male privilege and ruin it for the “boys”. Poor people want to suck away at public resources and force the 1% to share their wealth. I could go on for pages like this and what it comes down to is that we have something and “they” (whoever they are) want to take it from us. That triggers fear and anger and results in the violence and hostility we’re seeing.

Sensitivity training will only go so far. In fact I often wonder if it doesn’t just cause people to hide their true feelings and act in a socially acceptable manner without changing the underlying dynamic. It seems to me that getting to know “others” is the best way to lower these fears and reduce prejudice. How do we do that? I’m not sure because humans do tend to group in herds of a like mind. We surround ourselves with folks who share our viewpoints and so reinforce our fears. Perhaps we’re hard-wired to gather in tribes and protect our tribe from any perceived threat. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to expand who we see as part of our tribe. Maybe that’s the key – adopt some “others” into our tribe. Of course it helps if they’re open to our invitation and don’t try to force the tribe to dramatically change to suit their perceptions and worldview. Oh well, clearly this offers no life-altering or brilliant insight to the problem, I’m sure this idea has been presented many times before in many ways, but perhaps it will help just a few folks see things in a different light or open up a dialogue or two. Even baby steps are better than remaining in stasis.

How appropriate that I’ve been revisiting the Hanged Man from a few different decks these last few weeks.  It reminds me that every so often we need to stand the status quo on its head so we can see things differently; get a different perspective.  Perhaps that what needs to happen now.